Venezuela to reopen maritime border with Aruba from May 1


CARACAS, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Venezuela will reopen its maritime border with the island nation of Aruba starting May 1, the Venezuelan government said, ending a four-year closure of the border between the two countries.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Yvan Gil made the announcement via Twitter late on Thursday.

"As part of the negotiations with the Kingdom of the Netherlands we have agreed to reopen the maritime interconnection with Aruba from May 1, 2023," Gil said.

Aruba is a separate self-governing part of the Netherlands nearly 30 km (20 miles) north of Venezuela's coast.

"Cross-border trade will promote the economic well-being of our peoples," Gil added.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro closed the country's borders with Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao - all parts of the Netherlands - in February 2019 and placed diplomatic relations with the island nations under review. He argued that, at a minimum, Curacao was serving as a collection center for food and medical aid that Venezuela's opposition wanted to bring into the country.

Reopening the maritime border is the first step "to be able to import cheaper products from Venezuela such as fruits, vegetables, groceries and construction materials. It will help us lower costs of living," Aruba's Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes said in a statement on Thursday.

Aruba is also considering the reopening of air borders in a second phase, Wever-Croes added, without giving details of when that would be.

Earlier this month, Curacao's government said it was negotiating with Venezuela to reopen the maritime and air borders between the two countries by April 3.

(Reporting by Tibisay Romero and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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